The first and most important safety feature on the Subaru Outback may be its full-time all-wheel-drive system, one of the distinguishing features of the brand. It is backed up with stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes, and a hill-holder feature that keeps the car in place on slopes of 5 percent or more (the welcome return of a Subaru feature from the Eighties and Nineties).
Those features are supplemented by six airbags, along with seatbelt pre-tensioners. Our only complaint is that the blockier styling of the latest Outback impedes rearward and rear three-quarter vision, although Subaru will sell you a navigation system that includes a good backup camera.
This year, Subaru's partnership with Toyota begins to pay off in the form of new safety technology and options. The newest is a stereo camera system called EyeSight, which also bows in an upgraded form in the 2013 Lexus LS. In the Outback, the driver-assistance system is centered around those windshield-mounted cameras, which detect potential obstacles on the road ahead. The data is fed to a bundle of systems, including adaptive cruise control, vehicle lane-departure warning, and pre-collision braking.
While it's largely carryover, though, the Outback's safety scores are in flux. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only lists a four-star rollover rating for the wagon for the new model year, possibly because of the minor front-end changes and potential re-testing. In years past, the NHTSA has given the Outback an overall rating of four stars--good, but not the best in its class.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, has tested the Outback in the new small overlap frontal category, and it earned an 'acceptable' score--still qualifying it as a Top Safety Pick+.